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August 31, 2010 > Senior stories come alive

Senior stories come alive

Submitted By Mary Anderson

During the past three years, our community has witnessed generations coming together, glimpsing each other's feelings through powerful words that have been educational, inspiring, informative, and uplifting. And it all started with the gift of a letter.

The City of Fremont Human Services Department, in partnership with the Tri City Elder Coalition, has implemented a strategy on behalf of older adults. One of the project goals has been about fostering cross-cultural and inter-generational exchanges. The Senior Penpal Project has linked sixth grade students from participating Tri-City elementary schools with seniors, who then shared backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts in a letter writing exchange throughout the school year. They then met at for a year-end celebration that included dignitaries and other representatives from the community who gathered together to share in this joining of relationships.

During this past school year, the project expanded to include an interview of seniors matched with sixth grade students from Mission San Jose Elementary School. The students then wrote a story based upon the interview. The top three stories were selected by a panel of judges and the first place winner, Amrith Krishnan, had his story, "Free Together," published by The Tri-City Voice Newspaper. Copies will be made available throughout the Tri-City area following its release in mid-September.

Students asked questions focusing on their senior's life, engaging them in dialogue that revealed past experiences, thoughts on life, relationships, as well as customs and traditions that have made a lasting impact. While the stories were to be biographical, students had the opportunity to be creative to make the story interesting and engaging to read. Stories were judged on content, organization, voice, impact, word choice, and sentence structure.

This has been a most exciting and positive experience for both students and seniors. For after all, what can be more extraordinary than the discovery of another human being? We are most fortunate to be living in a community that cares about all of its residents - young, middle-aged and old - all coming together in support of one another as they transition through every stage of life. Perhaps it is best summed up in the words from Tri-City Voice Publisher, Bill Marshak, "The Penpal Project reveals that the human spirit is alive and well with no regard to age."

Sharing simply makes everything better. While we are indeed grateful for the ongoing support from a number of individuals who have made the Penpal Project such a remarkable journey in the art of letter writing, we especially acknowledge our sponsor, Cargill and our printer, the Tri-City Voice Newspaper.

In the weeks ahead, we will share with Tri-City readers each of the three stories for your reading pleasure. And now, we invite you to sit back, relax and read third place winner, Julia Noonan's story, "Learned to Love It."

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